Friday, July 31, 2009

who wants to be 98?

Mark Twain's famous answer to this question was, 'Someone who is 97'.

I'd like to introduce you to an old friend called David Orcutt who died last week in Vancouver at the age of 93. He didn't make it to 98 and many would say he didn't make it to 93 with all his faculties intact but I'll tell you a little about him and leave that decision to you. The photograph here of David and my dear friend Belle was likely one of the last taken at his mountaintop farm near Nelson, BC. Theirs was a wonderful friendship that lasted more than 40 years.

David got fed up with being a US citizen after WWII led to the Korean war which was never declared as an actual big 'W' war. By the time the Vietnam - Cambodia thing came along David packed the stuff he needed into a trailer hitched to the back of his car and moved to Canada. He bought half a mountain overlooking the Okanagan Valley for a couple of thousand dollars, the land being relatively worthless for farming, and proceeded to build a log house that never was to have electricity or running water. His main project was building a huge barn for staging and showing outrageous puppet shows which became famous enough to attract a small flow of financial support from the Canada Council For The Arts.

David was an intensely kind man. When young people began flocking to the area to start farms and communes he offered many of them places to build their houses and space for theirs and their children's creative minds to flourish. Some treated him better than others as time went by but David never wavered in his generosity of heart. Over the years he developed a written form for an international children's language in hopes that young people the world over would be able to communicate their mutual understandings and thus avoid the pitfalls of conflict that come as a result of our tendency to see the other as threatening. He traveled the country with his puppet shows and spent time traveling internationally collecting puppets and the ancient stories they represented.

He was loved by many and known by precious few in our modern culture, always young and idealistic at heart. After suffering a serious injury at the farm a few years ago his son Lowell had him transferred to a hospital in Vancouver where his recovery was complicated by episodes of memory loss. It was obvious he'd no longer be able to look after himself off the grid but he continued to live happily and positively in his new surroundings. One day when Belle was talking to him on the phone he was suddenly gone and someone else picked up the dropped line to say he was racing somebody else in his wheelchair.. That was David.

This is part of a note from Lowell to the Nelson Express editor as they were planning his obituary:

'Today I was clearing out my father's room at Purdy Pavilion. In his clothes cupboard was a neatly piled stack of papers and things. It hadn't been there the last time I had visited him there. I went through the papers one by one till I got halfway down and was awed to find the note shown in the third photograph. It was arranged as in the picture, sitting on top of a plastic bag full of jigsaw puzzle parts with a kaleidescope holding down the top of it. It speaks for itself......'

The only cure for aging in this world is the one that got David. There are a few of us up here posting our blogs who are older than most of the rest but my take on it is that I know many more in the real world younger than me who have minds and hearts not far from dead. It's all about staying engaged and interested in the world around us.. pissed off sometimes is perfectly natural too.

When I talked to Belle the other night she told me David's last words were, 'I have a plan'.

Good-bye to you, old friend, until we meet again.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

how hot is it?

I found a scorpion in my office yesterday.
A tribe of holy monkeys has moved into the woods nearby.
There's a banana tree growing in my bathroom.
I think I got bitten by a tsetse fly.
That's how hot it is.

I promise to visit when my laptop cools down.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

a real adventurer

It hardly seems believable to most people under 40 that not all that long ago there was no world wide web . Html was developed in 1990 and only mastered by me two years ago once I had a reason for posting pictures, links and youtubes. It was my husband who took to computing early on so I'm aware the internet is older than the web but general access to it was pretty restricted until the late 90's. 20 years ago net and dial-up connections went through big university servers and were charged by the minute - there was nothing to look at until the first browsers were developed. Back then everybody pretty much used netscape and everything was mostly based on the free transfer of information. Commercial applications came along with the html pages of new dot-com businesses (many of which tanked in 2001) with google, amazon and ebay opening up the concept for everyone to use easily.

But I hadn't intended to do a post about the web or blogging even though it's kind of remarkable that we've all grown so accustomed to our high speed access that an unplanned day or two without it is like having one of our major senses dismantled. What, or better put, who, I wanted to write about is Thor Heyerdahl, a world-renowned explorer, anthropologist and archaeologist and the fact that when we arrived here in Portland in 1993 I'd been making an extensive effort to find all of his books. I'd searched book stores all over the Providence and Boston area and had come up with only a couple, including a dog-eared copy of Kon Tiki. It turned out Powell's had them all and I was happy to read of his multiple adventures which appear to prove his hypothesis that established theories about civilisations and the movement of peoples were not necessarily correct.

Heyerdahl believed that there was a link between the sun worshipping cultures of central America and those which had developed on the Nile, the Euphrates and in the Indus Valley that had transferred pyramid-building technology. Reed boats depicted on the wall paintings in the Valley of the Kings and those on ceramic pots in northern Peru had made him curious about the connection. In the 60's he got Indians from Bolivia to come to Egypt to help build a reed boat, Ra, with 280,000 reeds brought from Lake Tana in the Ethiopian highlands. One of my books has a wonderful photograph of the Ra in front of the pyramids as it was being pulled to the Nile. Along with an international crew of seven he set sail in the 50 ft. reed boat, from Morocco across the Atlantic towards Barbados. The expedition had to be abandoned after 3,500 miles and 56 days, one week away from Barbados.

The Ra II built in 1970, also had to be abandoned short of its goal. One of the main problems during the Ra and Ra II voyages was that water absorption made the reed boats float very low in the water, covering their decks in water in the last few weeks. He was especially concerned about the toxic pollution in the Persian Gulf as he described the reeds of their boat disintegrating while they watched. Later he learned from the Marsh Arabs, who lived in the former Sumerian region of Iraq, that if the reeds were cut in August they would retain their buoyancy. Heyerdahl decided to try.

In 1977, his largest reed boat was ready – 60 feet long and named Tigris after the river in which it was launched. Built under the leadership of the same South American Indians who had built Ra II, Heyerdahl sailed under the UN flag and with an international crew of 11 men (and Crow).

The Tigris voyage lasted for 4,225 miles. The boat first sailed down Shatt-el-Arab from Iraq to the Persian Gulf and out into the Indian Ocean and continued on via Oman to the Indus Valley in Pakistan before it finally left Asia and sailed over the Indian Ocean to Africa. The five month long voyage ended in Djibouti at the entrance to the Red Sea. Surrounded by war on all sides the members of the expedition decided in April 1978 to burn the boat. At the same time they sent out a unanimous appeal to the UN to stop the delivery of weapons to developing countries in this part of the world, which had laid the foundations for our own civilisation.

The Tigris was deliberately burnt in Djibouti, on April 3, 1978 as a protest against the wars raging on every side in the Red Sea and Horn of Africa. In Heyerdahl's open letter to the Secretary of the United Nations he said in part:

' Today we burn our proud ship... to protest against inhuman elements in the world of 1978... Now we are forced to stop at the entrance to the Red Sea. Surrounded by military airplanes and warships from the world's most civilized and developed nations, we have been denied permission by friendly governments, for reasons of security, to land anywhere, but in the tiny, and still neutral, Republic of Djibouti. Elsewhere around us, brothers and neighbors are engaged in homicide with means made available to them by those who lead humanity on our joint road into the third millennium.

'To the innocent masses in all industrialized countries, we direct our appeal. We must wake up to the insane reality of our time.... We are all irresponsible, unless we demand from the responsible decision makers that modern armaments must no longer be made available to people whose former battle axes and swords our ancestors condemned.

'Our planet is bigger than the reed bundles that have carried us across the seas, and yet small enough to run the same risks unless those of us still alive open our eyes and minds to the desperate need of intelligent collaboration to save ourselves and our common civilization from what we are about to convert into a sinking ship.'

Heyerdahl's work, explorations, thoughts and conclusions deserve much more space than I'm able to manage in a small blog post but thankfully, because of the world wide web, most of the information is now readily available to anyone who might be interested. We descendants of Europeans have a tendency to believe we've brought civilization to the world but the opposite could also be true. It's now fairly well understood that our continent was inhabited for thousands of years before those ancestors arrived with their greed intact. Shortly before his death in 2002 Heyerdahl remarked, 'I say that no European has discovered anything but Europe.'

The fact that there was a civilized world before us and there could very well be again is worth some consideration. He traveled the world discovering pyramids and other signs of ancient civilizations unknown to most people even now when we're told modern science knows everything worth knowing:

'I'm left with a conviction that there's something wrong with science. So much information is available nowadays that to make any forward progress scientists are forced to specialize, making any attempt at an overview impossible. I've always searched for correspondences but young people today are crushed by scientific orthodoxies before they even get a chance to explore.'

The web as we know it arrived fast and not too long ago. If it ever disappears rest assured humanity has a long track record of keeping in touch with the truly important things.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

not amused

Have you ever had one of those days when some clown takes your favorite doll and leaves a Real Baby in your doll carriage? You aren't happy and the Baby isn't happy.

Yesterday we had one of those rare times when our internet connection was dead in the water so I couldn't post or read my emails or go to visit blogs. It was aggravating but left me thinking that if high frequency traders like Goldman Sachs had a DSL Earthlink connection the rest of us might be in a happier place today.

So I've answered my emails and my comments. I promise to visit tomorrow.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

yes, but can i touch it?

We tend to believe magic is evil, strange, or just the hocus-pocus of entertainers with lightning fast reflexes and lots of fancy equipment but what if it's as real as your refrigerator? For the Egyptians magic was neither scary nor strange but a force present in nearly every aspect of their lives.

We imagine our eyes to be little windows at the front of our heads that let the pictures of the world inside for us to consider and have opinions about, but what's really happening is that everything we see exists only in our minds. For a simple example check out the blind spot self test. Perceived information goes for the other senses too. Sound is a vibration in air currents and without an ear, or air, or a brain, there is no sound. I think my bottom and my favorite chair are attracted to one another by gravity but since all objects are made of molecules which are formed of protons and electrons orbiting a nucleus at a significant distance, what is real about my sitting here? The spiritual anodyne that we are all one goes much further than the bozos on this bus route we tend to understand from a purely practical basis. Since each and every one of us is attached to everything we perceive - me to chair, breathing in air, air blowing breeze, wind currents, you sitting, standing, walking but always breathing so long as you're here. We're attached. If we could see true reality we can't begin to imagine what would appear.

I don't recommend books very often but I read one recently that confirmed something I've accepted inherently all my life called 'Biocentrism' written by Robert Lanza, MD (a scientist with a genuine reputation). The essence of the book is that life creates the universe rather than the other way around whose proof revolves around current discoveries in quantum mechanics. What a wonderful concept. If you don't have time to read the book you should at least check out the article which I've borrowed from just to give a hint of a paradigm altering concept that would allow us some sense of ease through difficult times.

We can believe there's a universe out there even if there were no living organisms, but this is just a thought and thought requires a thinking being. What could existence mean without consciousness of any kind? There is nothing in modern physics that explains how a group of molecules in a brain creates consciousness. The beauty of a sunset, the taste of a delicious meal, these are all mysteries to science — which can sometimes pin down where in the brain the sensations arise, but not how and why there is any subjective personal experience to begin with. And, what’s worse, nothing in science can explain how consciousness arose from matter. Our understanding of this most basic phenomenon is virtually nil. Interestingly, most models of physics do not even recognize this as a problem.

Right now there are only four explanations for this mystery. One is to argue for incredible coincidence. Another is to say, "God did that," which explains nothing even if it is true. The third is to invoke the anthropic principle’s reasoning that we must find these conditions if we are alive, because, what else could we find? The final option is biocentrism pure and simple, which explains how the universe is created by life. Obviously, no universe that doesn’t allow for life could possibly exist; the universe and its parameters simply reflect the spatio-temporal logic of animal existence. That's because it's Magic. There's a life stream running through the Cosmos and we're all a part of it. In Egypt an open-mouthed lion functioned exactly the same as gargoyles found on Gothic cathedrals - draining water and warding off evil spirits. Science has given us much but it can't tell us everything we need to know.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Crow reminisces

Crow here.

Since I'm quite fed up with investigating Goldman Sachs and assorted other examples of greedy human sharks I thought I'd tell you the story of how I met susan. It's next door at Adventure's Ink if you're in the mood to be bored.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

dream and nightmare

I don't know if I've ever mentioned how much I love the films made by anime director Hayao Miyazaki who made Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky, Kiki's Delivery Service and Howl's Moving Castle among others. There's something about his vision of the world as it almost is, as it never quite was, as it could possibly be, that catches my heart.

It's probably no more than the glimmerings of things seen and understood from a pre-verbal childhood, one that happened for me before the advent of television. I was born in England quite a long time ago when remnants of magic still existed especially in the countryside. My parents, who had survived the horrors of WWII, pointed out fairy paths to amuse me when we picnicked in verdant green fields dotted with tiny white daisies, clover and myriad buttercups. Eventually, we left for Canada but the memories of magic went with me.

Today I read that James Lovelock, the now 90 year old English scientist who first propounded the Gaia Theory has written another book called 'The Vanishing Face of Gaia'. He feels we've missed the tiny window of opportunity that still existed until a few years ago to curtail the habits of ours that are leading to global climate change and there are many scientists who now agree with him. It was Lovelock 'who established that the various components of the biosphere - plants, animals, minerals, gases, the sun's heat - interact in such a way as to create and maintain a climate amenable to life'. The icecaps and glaciers are rapidly shrinking, carbon consuming algae in the seas are dying and methane release from melted permafrost will only hasten the heating trend currently underway.

He believes that with luck we'll avoid global resource wars but even so the earth's carrying capacity could be markedly reduced in the coming century. We all know what he means by that and it makes me feel more sad than words can say to think of it at all. But I'm an escape artist and Lovelock has also offered an escape - into a future world where we've learned our lessons about war and greed. I hope he's right about that part even as I hope there's still time for the children we love to grow up and make the decision to have fewer children themselves. Meanwhile I'll take comfort when and where it's offered which for me sometimes includes Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli.

My Neighbour Totoro :-)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

summer afternoon

It's a hot day around here and the laptop isn't making me any cooler but since I haven't made a July appearance I thought I'd post a picture of a favorite painting I did and pretend she's waiting for the fireworks.. or sky flowers as they were called in 'Land of the Dead'.

Did you hear about the 7 foot tall guy who went to the swimming pool looking for a job as a lifeguard? The manager asked if he could swim and the man said, 'No but I can wade out pretty far.'


Railway porter (cheerfully): 'So, did you miss your train, sir?'
Passenger: 'No, I didn't like the look of it so I chased it down the track.'

Happy Fourth and belated Happy First for the other Canadians besides me :-) Have a beer, some iced lemonade or whatever suits you and enjoy a great summer weekend.